This article analyzes the character of Christian love in Agape and Eros. It considers some major themes on their own terms and whether those terms can bear the fullness of the Gospel vision to which Nygren would be faithful, in an effort to bring forth something of the power and the limits of this classic in Christian ethics. It is argued that agapē generally includes a self-concerned but non-egocentric desire for loving relation with another, for its own sake; that God's love for the sinner in her real individuality is also for a beloved child who lives in Christ and is called as such to participate in the divine life; that this participation may be an object of non-possessive desire fully encompassed by God's gracious mercy and power; and that the sinner as real covenant partner may respond out of that desire in self-giving love for God that corresponds to her God-given nature and thus to her good.
This essay aims to explain what Aquinas does and does not mean when using the word ‘God’. It also tries to explain why Aquinas thinks it reasonable to conclude that God exists and how Aquinas can be compared and contrasted with certain thinkers both agreeing and disagreeing with this conclusion. The essay places emphasis on Aquinas’s notion of esse and on the fact that he consistently asserts that we do not know what God is.
Kimberly A. Blessing
Both theists and atheists have attempted to show that their opponent’s orientation towards religion prevents them from living truly meaningful lives. But exclusivists on both sides are wrong. For neither atheists nor theists are necessarily committed to meaninglessness. This essay focuses attention on two key components of theistic meaning of life theories that theists argue are importantly missing from atheistic theories, immortality and a Divine Plan. It also considers atheistic alternatives to theistic accounts of meaningfulness that involve subjectivism, intrinsic values, and Susan Wolf’s hybrid theory of meaning. We come to see that genuine meaning for either theists or atheists requires some conceptual commitments, and the dispute about which side can live meaningfully is yet another case of the two sides talking past each other. Alternatively, if we allow for the different kinds and degrees of meaning we may conclude that both theists and atheists are able to offer rationally acceptable theories of life’s meaning(s).
M. Daniel Carroll R. and Darrell L. Bock
Christians have always believed that the Bible is the most important resource for thinking about the moral life of individual believers and their communities. Many different kinds of issues arise—theological, hermeneutical, exegetical, and historical—when we use the Bible to help answer ethical questions. Christopher Wright takes very seriously the shape of Israel's laws, social structures, and contextual realities, and avoids the vagueness of a disembodied set of supposed eternal principles. This article provides an overview of the most salient topics that are foundational for a proper appropriation of the Bible, both those of a more general sort and those most significant for the Old and New Testaments. First, it discusses the authority of the Bible for ethics, the study of ethics as it pertains to the Old Testament, social and textual reconstruction, virtue ethics, ethics and the canon, and New Testament ethics. It also examines different models for ethics in the New Testament, such as the imitation of Jesus, Jesus-centered character ethics, and the biblical Jesus in combination with a theological matrix.
Eryl W. Davies
This article begins with a discussion of the methodological issues faced by scholars of ethics in the Old Testament and New Testament. It then identifies the basis of Old Testament ethics in law, natural law, and the imitation of God. This is followed by a discussion of New Testament ethics covering Jesus and the law, Jesus and eschatology, the background of Paul's ethics, and Paul's Christology and eschatology.
Often referred to as the greatest Anglican apologist of modern times, C. S. Lewis is also regarded as a ‘popular’ theologian. His theology seems to be primarily encapsulated in his theological digest Mere Christianity, but that work contains only a pale reflection of most of his theological thought. Lewis's academic writings have a clarity and lucidity that makes them attractive to the general reader. His theological works have the same qualities, but are written from his own perspective as a layman. Lewis's theology might be divided into three parts, each representing a stage in his own spiritual development. The three parts of his theological vision are supernaturalism, the nature of good and evil, and the process of redemption. Each aspect of this vision emphasizes the key issue of his Christian faith: the surrender of the self to God.
Stanley Hauerwas and Jana Bennett
Catholic social teaching is usually identified with the papal encyclicals and a few Vatican II documents, beginning with Leo XIII's great encyclical Rerum Novarum (1891) and climaxing in the encyclical of John Paul II Centesimus Annus (1991). This article begins with a discussion on the ‘theopolitics’ of the encyclicals. It then considers some of the encyclicals dealing with family. These encyclicals are not solely (or perhaps even primarily) about the controversial issues of birth control and the nature of the family; rather, they help us see that Catholic social teaching must be interpreted as the ongoing attempt by the Church to respond to the challenge of social orders built on the assumption that we can live as if God does not exist.
John H. Berthrong
This article on Chinese philosophical theology discusses the following topics: Confucian religiosity, the Confucian way of being religious, classical Confucianism, the Zhongyong, the new Confucian Mou Zongsan's religious thought, and the future of the Confucian task of being religious.
T. S. Eliot once commented that Matthew Arnold ‘set up Culture in the place of Religion, and...[left] Religion to be laid waste by the anarchy of feeling’. His observation prompts us to consider whether Arnold, the quintessential Victorian, was also the prototypical modern who, unable to muster belief in the biblical God, embraces culture as a faith substitute. And that consideration certainly can lead to the larger questions of what is culture and how Christianity ought to be disposed toward it. This article is concerned with answering these latter questions. Even if Eliot was correct that Arnold made culture, and duty to it, stand for religion, the great Victorian was sufficiently sympathetic to the spirit of historic Christianity that his vision of culture was neither atheistic nor thoroughly secularist. He was a transitional figure from whom we can learn a lot about the late modern context of our discussion.
Economic theory and practice often seek — either explicitly or implicitly — to maximize the common good conceived as the aggregate satisfaction of individual preferences. Christian ethics, of course, considers the common good, but always in its relationship to individual human dignity, not merely in relation to individual preferences. The commonplace assumption that Christian views of human dignity and economists' efforts to maximize the common good are incompatible should not surprise us. This article challenges that assumption and argues that the increasingly authoritative use of cost-benefit analysis for evaluating public policies and practices can maximize respect for the equal dignity of persons.
One would hardly want to present the Christian religion as an apologist for irresponsible or immoral conduct toward spouses and children, or as insensitive to the richness and challenge of family life as a context for personal spiritual formation. But it is important to recognize that this easy confluence of Christian ethics and familial duty is something of an anomaly historically. Moreover, it is an anomaly for good reasons: reasons rooted deep in our moral and theological traditions, in the texts that form us, and the practices that sustain our communities. This article makes this case, starting with a broad sketch of the biblical material dealing with family life, from the primeval histories down to the explicit moral teaching of the pastoral epistles. The article then considers some of the complicated strands of early Christian teaching about the relationship between faithfulness and family life, and the preaching, teaching, and pastoral advice of the classical Reformation theologians. Finally, it analyzes the roots of the modern sacralization of family life, and suggests something about the insights it costs us and the moral perils to which it exposes us. The article offers a constructive proposal for reclaiming the sphere of family life under the aegis of discipleship, and suggests that such a strategy depends upon the conversion of natural loves.
This article presents a theological assessment of government. It argues that Christians are called to active involvement in political life. God has established government for the benefit of the human community. Though it is a fallen institution, it nevertheless carries great possibilities as well as great dangers. Christians should grasp their political responsibilities and participate critically in political life. This means bringing their perspectives and actions to bear on the dynamic of political life. They should hold government in high esteem, but not idolatrously so. Above all, it is important that lay persons carry their Christian values right into the heart of the political process. Such witness will be far more effective than the sometimes necessary social statements or advocacy efforts of the institutional Church, because those lay Christians will be in the decision-making centres of political life in a way that the institutional Church cannot be.
Paul J. Griffiths
There is no shortage of figural language for the Church. Much of it is biblical, and still more is woven into the fabric of the Church's hymnody and prayer. The Church is, according to her own account, wife and mother, city and garden, kingdom and diaspora, people and body, sign and sacrament, warrior and peacemaker, seed and harvest, pure and defiled, virgin and whore, lover and taskmistress, and lamb, eagle, hen, and doe. Christians are not formed morally only, or even principally, by the language they use. They are formed morally by the practices they perform, among which the deep and repeated use of figural language is only one. None the less, thought about what Christian figural language for the Church might provoke and intimate by way of understanding the Church as a theatre of moral formation may itself be an instrument of importance in furthering and deepening the conformation of Christ's body to Christ. Such thought is the focus of this article. If the figure is language's dreamwork, it offers an interpretation of dreams whose goal is to help those who dream the ecclesial dream to do so more fully, and perhaps also more interestingly.
Erin M. Cline
This article discusses Confucian views on childhood moral development, focusing especially on accounts of moral cultivation in the classical and Han periods. Beginning very early, Confucians exhibited an understanding of the unique influence that parent–child relationships have on children’s moral development during the earliest stages of development, which led them to argue for the importance of moral cultivation and moral education not only during infancy and childhood, but even during the prenatal period. Through an examination of texts, including the Analects, Mengzi, Discourse on the States, Record of Ritual, Collected Biographies of Women and Protecting and Tutoring, as well as secondary literature on this topic, this article focuses on how we should understand Confucian accounts of the roles of parents, the family, ritual, and filial piety in the moral development of children.
This chapter explores the construction of evil and the strategies of violence in purification. Prurient fascination and righteous revulsion both recreate and repel each other, developing an anxiety of confusion that has resulted in many circumstances in community efforts to cast the subject, the symbol, of that confusion. Erotic prurience into the nature and deeds of Evil may remain as a living genre for centuries without lending itself to societies as legitimation for purge. Dramaturgy and procession can contribute to brutal but cathartic narratives of saints and monsters, martyrs, and their persecutors, into the immediate festival lives of communities. Furthermore, brutality and atrocity are recurrent characteristics of any culture, often aggravated in situations of historical stress independent of religious systems.
Lisa Sowle Cahill
This article focuses on aspects of the theology of creation that are important for Christian ethics today. It identifies five key ways in which the idea of creation has been used in the Christian tradition. It then makes five critical points about how this doctrine has functioned in the past and ought to function in the future. In relation to ethics, the doctrine of creation has often been used to defend a foundation or minimum of human morality that survives the fact of sin and that can provide a natural basis for a just social life. This approach needs to be nuanced and amplified, so that Christian theology can more adequately meet the challenge of working for justice in a global and interreligious context. Confronting problems like economic oppression, gender discrimination, racism, ethnic violence, and environmental degradation, different traditions must, can, and do co-operate to solve common problems while still maintaining and valuing distinct faith identities. To invoke creation is not to bracket religious identity while pursuing common human moral values. Rather, creation is a symbolic point of unity among religious traditions. It can underwrite religious commitment to uphold continuities and commonalities in human moral experiences and obligations across traditions.
Darlene Fozard Weaver
Christian life is one of dying and rising with Christ. What is the relationship between this dying and rising and our death? What does this relationship mean for facing death and for our care for the dying? This article considers these questions with respect to death's ‘natural’ dimension as the separation of body and soul; death's ‘personal’ dimension as the end of our earthly life; and death's ‘moral’ dimension as a wager of love. Drawing on Paul Ramsey and Karl Rahner, it sketches a theological moral anthropology — the person is a unity of body and soul who lives by the love of God. This anthropology appears in Christian construals of death as the bodily manifestation of, and punishment for, our wilful alienation from God in a misplaced or self-withholding love for life.
This article addresses the question of what God's ultimate purposes might be for creating the world, focusing particularly on what His purpose might have been in creating the world via a seemingly partly chance-driven evolutionary process. It argues that God's creation of human beings and other living organisms through an evolutionary process allows for richer and deeper sorts of interconnections between humans and non-human creation than would otherwise be possible. These interconnections are of significant value, mainly because they allow for creation to become more deeply united with ourselves, in fact so united that there exists a deep communion between us and the rest of creation. This communion is not only an intrinsic good, but it enriches us, since part of this communion is creation becoming part of our very self, and thus we consciously share in the richness of creation.
This article begins with a discussion of the chief biblical traditions that inform Christian theological reflection on divine commands: Moses (and the Ten Commandments), Jesus (and the double-love commands), and Paul (and his understanding of the law's functions within human existence). Next, it traces the development of the nominalist focus on divine commands within the context of earlier theological contributions (by Irenaeus, Augustine, and Thomas Aquinas). It then examines how the Reformers (Martin Luther and John Calvin) appropriate — and nuance — this nominalist understanding of divine commands, and briefly discusses their influence on strains of modern and contemporary forms of voluntarist thought. This article's constructive contribution, offered by way of a critical appropriation of Karl Barth's theology of divine commands, seeks to depict a ‘theonomous’ account of divine commands — one that presupposes a Trinitarian understanding of God and the Reformers' distinctions among the ‘uses of the law’.